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December 16, 2016

Investors Target Chevron for Doing Business in Burma
    by Robert Kropp

A shareowner resolution co-filed by Azzad Asset Management requests that Chevron cease doing business with the government of Burma until state-sanctioned violence against the Rohingya minority is ended.

SocialFunds.com -- In 2012, the Obama administration dialed back economic sanctions against Burma, in recognition of reforms that led to the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the opening of the electoral process to opposition parties such as the one led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the time, wary sustainable investors and civil society organizations called for the adoption of stringent rules against the use of forced labor and other human rights abuses, as outlined in Amnesty International guidelines co-authored by shareowner activist Simon Billenness.

What was probably unexpected at that time was that a government essentially led by Suu Kyi would continue the previous regime's practice of violence and other forms of repression against the Muslim Rohingya minority, whose people are not recognised as citizens and are denied voting rights. This week, the Human Rights Office of the United Nations condemned the Burma for its “abdication of the government's obligations under international human rights law,” according to Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Billenness is now Executive Director of the recently formed
International Campaign for the Rohingya (ICR); the intention of the nongovernmental organization's No Business With Genocide campaign is to “put effective pressure on corporations in key sectors – principally oil, gas, timber, mining and banking – to stop supporting regimes complicit in genocide and crimes against humanity.” Billenness helped arrange the first shareowner resolution addressing the plight of the Rohingya people, which was co-filed by Azzad Asset Management and the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.

The resolution requests that Chevron “halt its relationship with the government of Burma (Myanmar) until that country ends the state-sanctioned violence against its Rohingya minority.” The resolution will be voted on by shareowners at Chevron's Annual General Meeting in May, 2017.

“By conducting business with a government that is accused of committing grave human rights abuses, Chevron has assumed significant legal, moral, reputational, and political liabilities stemming from Burma's repression and violence against the Rohingya people,” Azzad CEO Bashar Qasem said.

Readers of SocialFunds.com are no doubt aware of the ongoing efforts of Billenness to call Chevron to account for complicity in environmental and human rights abuses. His efforts to persuade the oil giant from continuing its campaign to fight its liability for environmental destruction in Ecuador was met with the unprecedented response of a subpoena in 2012.

Regarding the current situation in Burma, Billenness said, “Corporations such as Chevron that choose to do business with the Burmese government run the risk of supporting a regime that, through its repression and violence against the Rohingya, engages in ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide. History will not be kind to corporations complicit in such crimes against humanity.”

According to ICR, the goal of the No Business With Genocide campaign “is the adoption of 'No Business With Genocide' resolutions and laws by universities, religious denominations, and local and state governments.” Those who wish to join the advocacy are advised to contact Billenness at simon.billenness@rohingyacampaign.org.

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